‘I know how you feel mate’ I whisper in to the cold dawn air, pulling my feet underneath me in a bid to keep them away from the icy bite of bitterness curling in from behind the balcony wall.
Sitting completely still listening for noise, any sound that may signal somebody is aware of my trespassing; goose pimples slowly creep up my bare arms and with the rising of the sun, the dawning of the full meaning of what I have been trying to do, what I have been attempting to hide, rests uncomfortably and like a desperately unwanted failure, on my already struggling heart.
From behind the steamy glass partitions to my left, completely unaware of my actions, the rest of the household are warm and snuggled beneath their duvets, breathing evenly, deeply ensconced in a dream world no doubt excitedly anticipating the start of the day and all the joy that is bound to be felt with the arrival of more family from overseas and the start of the festive period.
I find myself sat almost catatonic, at least this is how it would appear from the outside looking in, but as usual beneath the stillness there hides a tornado of destruction desperate to escape, and yet here I sit motionless and contained, like I have found myself sat on many mornings over the last 3 weeks, wide awake at 5am, although this time, my surroundings are not familiar in any sense.
Today I will write. Today I will be honest.
Legs squashed beneath me on an alien, yellow and damp plastic chair that resides like a welcome friend, that seems to know what I need, on my mother in laws balcony, staring in to the early morning nothingness, completely alone except for the two enflamed, rock hard and aching glands in my throat which arose out of nowhere at tea time yesterday like 2 unwelcome Russian ballet dancers, all shiny and proud, desperate for attention, at a party for comfortable and relaxed stoned hoodies only, I notice a spider, hot footing it across the balcony handrail.
I decide instantly that he is Jeff reincarnate and smile as I glance to the hot cup of tea I silently made in an unfamiliar kitchen earlier, that sits to the left of my laptop now, its steam dancing and molding itself confidently around the cold morning air, it too seemingly overjoyed and excited by the intoxicating swell that Christmas brings.
Even Doodle the usually over excited and ever-awake poodle heaved a heavy sigh of disdain as I crept from the musty sleep smelling room where both my son and the Irish one slept, the room I had lain awake in for most of the night before finally giving in, desperate to get words on paper, grabbing only my laptop and a pack of cigarettes to assist me in the journey.
Now I wish, of course, as I reach for my tea, my feet angrily tingling and overcome by numbness, that I had also grabbed my socks. Thinking ahead has never been my strong point. I wanted this to be romantic, soldier like, brave. I realise now, I could have been just as brave, soldier like and romantic, with warm feet.
As I sip my tea I witness in horror Jeff lose his footing on the narrow balcony handrail and watch transfixed as he dangles precariously from a lonely thread of web suspended above a 2 story drop that would surely, if he should fall, ensure his untimely death.
I know cats have 9 lives, but I am pretty sure spiders don’t. I can safely assume this because Doodle has a penchant for eating them, and unless our house is ‘the place spiders go when all their other lives have been exhausted’ or the ‘place spiders go to prove the 9 lives thing wrong’ I just cant see it being the case. If Jeff were to fall now, he would die. End of. Remember, Jeff is no longer a magpie, he has been re-incarnated as a spider. A spider without wings, thank god! *Ergh Shudder* Imagine if spiders could fly! *Shudder* shudder*
Panic stricken on his behalf I watch as he wraps all 8 of his hairy legs (we have a fair amount in common this new Jeff and I) around his silvery translucent self made strong hold, as it blows and bobs about in the morning breeze, clinging on to it for dear life.
Blowing the (artistic, seriously if this was a music video I would totally be the star… which is why socks wouldn’t have been appropriate, socks just aren’t sexy, and I wanted to feel sexy and depressed) smoke from my mouth from the rolly (I am so rock and roll) I made earlier, I contemplate helping him.
Jamie’s words ring in my ears.
‘No one else can help you, support yes, but you are the only one who is able to help you, you learnt how to do this in hospital. You were not in hospital to be cured, only to build an armory of tools to assist you in the journey towards that ever-illusive light at the end of the tunnel. A light which incidentally, can fade, only for you to switch it back on again.’
I should help him. I am clearly unable to help myself so I may as well help him.
If I picked the web up I could save his life, lift him on to the table beside my tea, where he would be safe for a while, until Doodle wakes up that is anyway, but what if, during this high voltage moment of spider terror, I dropped the web with my stubby eczema ravaged fingers and because of my actions he plummeted to his death anyway?
I wouldn’t be able to handle the guilt. I stood on a slug yesterday and cried for a full three minutes. It was truly traumatic. Sluggy entrails – everywhere. I even considered, as I am in Ireland and all, reciting a few Hail Mary’s. As it was my glands were killing and Addison was about to run in to oncoming traffic so there was no time. I did however, pray for the slug a little last night.
As I watch him clinging on, bobbing about in the wind, (back to Jeff the spider, seriously I am like the insect version of David Attenborough at the moment) no doubt frantically wishing for a break in the weather pattern so he can shoot out another web from his bum (they do make the webs in their bums don’t they?) and climb to safety, my mind wanders. (Seriously, I am useless in an emergency.)
I am sure when he first carefully planned and imagined his future, created his home, his life, met his wife, started college, got his degree in web construction, got his wife pregnant accidentally, became a father to six million spider bairns who all seemingly moved in to my flat, only to be eaten by a black fluffy four legged cloud, and got knighted as Sir Spider the first for his services to the Eccles spider population, he truly believed everything he had built, everything his eight legged life was built on, was stable secure and steadfast.
But now look at him.
Dangling from a disappearing thread of nothing, in a country he feels a little bit lost in, wishing he had maybe taken more time to enjoy the moments leading up to this one.
And this is where it becomes evident I have more in common with Jeff than just a slightly chubby set of hairy legs and badly misjudged footing.
I too have been clinging to an ever changing, translucent piece of thread tied to the end of my sanity, (not my bum) dangling over what felt like a 2 story drop, for a while too.
I haven’t written because I wanted to write happy, I wanted to prove I was mended, fixed, better. I wanted to wipe the slate clean, to expunge the ever growing record of depression and miserability from existence. As if I could tell myself that if I could only will these thoughts to be true, I am happy, I am better, I am cured, I would begin to feel them. That the time I spent in hospital away from my son would have been worth it. That I would have succeeded.
And the real thoughts, the thoughts that ensure I feel like a failure, a waste of time, have let everybody down, am not only a bad excuse for a mother, but a terrible friend, a liar, worthless, if only people knew the real me they would see that I am disgusting, despicable, mean and ugly inside, would slowly melt away in to obscurity.
With each passing day I have gripped harder, tightened my hold, ignored the inner turmoil and acted, pretended, fabricated and invented, to others as well as to myself, that life has suddenly manifested from murky grey in to bright yellow. I am hopeful, I am happy, I am content, I am Zen. I have Chi. (Or whatever.)
And all the while, as I have been dancing around acting like Rosie (everything’s Rosie… damn that bloody cartoon and its catchy song, I want her hair) while secretly clinging on to a mere fiber in time, to stop me from breaking, some fucker has been standing there pointing a hairdryer’s worth of wind in my direction, watching me bob about like a poo making its way down a river.
I haven’t been happy, or funny, or joyful, or (spit this next word out) ‘better.’
December dawned with swollen eyes, an allergic reaction to new medication and with it a sinking feeling that hiding behind every corner of my smile, the depression was ready to creep back in.
Mickeys twice upon Christmas constantly on repeat in the living room was the sound track to my disappointment in myself for not having tried harder, for not having been a better more lovable mummy and for having let everybody down and for feeling lost once more, as I took to my arm with my hair straighteners and caused such a severe burn I very nearly required a skin graft.
The month continued, suffocated with avoidance and denial and therefore being unable to write the truth, and having no escape hatch, as my mental health took a nosedive hand in hand with my relationship with the Irish one.
I hate you! (I mean myself) I love you! (I mean you.) I hate you! (I mean myself) Leave me alone, I am lonely, get away from me but please hug me. You are horrible! (because I have let you down) I despise you! (I mean me.) You do nothing for me! (Because you can’t read my mind.) I want it to be over! (Because I am not good enough, or of any use to anybody.) I want to die. (Because even if you did love me, I could never love myself.)
After an accidental codeine overdose last night in a bid to ward of the swollen glands I can no longer help but think of as Russian, bleary eyed and off my face as enough of the Irish one’s relatives to fill not only Christmas present, but also Christmas past and Christmas future came bundling through the door, faces beaming and excited, I finally realised it was time to tell the truth. (Not to his whole family. I’m depressed not insane. Hi! Welcome home for Christmas! I think I want to die again! Here, there is your present! No. I didn’t do that.)
I brought the Irish one out on to the very same balcony I am sat on now (after first admitting my dark thoughts on Twitter, for courage) and through floods of tears, garbled out the truth.
‘I am having a relapse. I am a failure. I am sorry I have let you down.’
‘I know,’ he replied softly, kneeling at my feet, holding on to my knees for support ‘I have known for weeks. And you haven’t let me down. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I just wish you had been honest sooner, you know there has always been support here.’
Tears of disappointment, shame, relief and love fled from the inner shadows of my soul and slowly I began to allow myself to be supported once again.
Something that isn’t always easy but if I had remembered, had always been there, either from those around me, or from the many stranger friends I have met online.
And this is where I find December dawdling to an end.
Sat in Ireland, at 6am on the eve of Christmas Eve, an empty cup of tea by my side, the dog scratching at the door to be let out and the Christmas tree lights glistening in the corner, from the warmth of the family room inside.
I glance up at Jeff quickly, heart hammering, only now that I am coming to the end of this emotional rollercoaster, remembering his plight and hopeful that by himself, he has made progress.
It is with a mixture of relief and awe I see that he has climbed back up and is now sat back on the balcony edge, a slight smile on his face, about to shave his legs. (I may have made that last bit up.)
Fair play to him.
If he can do it, maybe so can I.
‘I know how you feel mate. Thank you.’ And with that, I get up out of the chair, forgetting that my legs have completely fallen asleep underneath me and collapse in to a heap on the wet floor.
After I have cursed the pins and needles, and Jeff has finally stopped laughing at me and I have realised I definitely need to absolve the language that spilled out of my mouth with more than a few hail Mary’s, I finally creep back inside and slide back in to bed next to the Irish one and fall asleep listening to the sound of my sons snoring gag reflexes. (Boys!)
The journey is long.
I haven’t let anybody down, because I am still fighting it.
I didn’t jump off the boat and in to the icy water, on the way over here. I wanted to. But I didn’t.
Thank you for all your support.